RACHEL & ELSA
I was overjoyed to be pregnant again. No one knew at Linus' first birthday party, but I was already 8 weeks along. I loved those first 12 weeks of both pregnancies when we held on to this wonderful secret.
The only difference this time around was that I was now deemed to be high risk. The combination of obstetric cholestasis, emergency caesarean section, and a massive obstetric haemorrhage were not the ideal trio of risk factors. However I was having my baby in a place that had an excellent VBAC rate, my consultant, the amazing Ed Dorman, was happy to let me go for it and I knew my midwives would, without compromising my safety, nurture and support me in my quest for normality.
I had agreed that if I was to go well past my due date, or the cholestasis was again an issue, I would agree to a caesarean section. No one felt that induction was the best plan and I concurred.
It was a Tuesday evening when I felt my first twinge. No organised contractions and nothing that the TENS machine I had hired couldn't easily cope with. My lovely brother Jim came over so that if things kicked off there was company for 19 month old Linus.
I was 38+2 weeks which, incidentally, was exactly the same time that I had started niggling with Linus. On Wednesday morning I went to playgroup as normal, none of the mums knew I had the TENS on though, more exciting secrets!! The contractions gradually faded away so I was able to cope with Linus and all his antics during the day. Although I was annoyed that things were slowing down, I knew my time would come so I relaxed and accepted it.
Max came home from work at about 6:30pm. He was very good at getting home to help with bath time. Linus was pretty full on and liked nothing better that bouncing around on my belly. Not surprisingly I found that quite trying at the end of the day!
Our bodies are amazingly intuitive, as a midwife I was often talking to women about the mind-body connection and the significance of it during pregnancy and labour. In support of this theory I was conscious that once Max was with me and Linus again, my body was able to relax, the oxytocin could flow and labour could start. I felt safe.
I spent the next hour or so bouncing around on the birthing ball while Max put Linus to bed. I made a call to Kirstie, one of my mates, who I should say is a midwife. She lived nearby and agreed to come over to see me at home. Deciding that this baby was definitely coming tonight we also called my parents who were excited to come and do the all important grandparenting.
Kirstie and I decided that she would do a vaginal examination so I dutifully lay on the floor and assumed the position!! As I lay there, breathing through the contractions and hoping for favourable news about the state of my cervix, I noticed that through the patio doors I could see straight across the garden into a neighbours window. That particular neighbour, a gentleman, was sat in the window at his desk! Oh joy, if I could see him then he could see me. I reckon he could well have got more than he bargained for that Wednesday evening!
I can't remember how far dilated I was, but I think it was no more than 1-2 cm. Kirstie was reassuring and we were both mindful that, as I was high risk, I shouldn't leave it too late to go to hospital. Mum and Dad arrived at shortly after 10pm and very soon after we got in the car and left home as parents of 1 for the last time.
The 10 mile drive was not the most comfortable 45 minutes, or so, of my life but what labouring woman enjoys a car ride?
Another of my fantastic friends, Beccy, was at the Birth Unit at John and Lizzies to greet me. Her face was warm and welcoming so the oxytocin couldn't get knocked aside by adrenaline and anxiety. I was pretty vocal at this point. I've never been a shrinking violet and now was no time for that to change. At the time of her initial assessment, about 11:30pm, I was 3cm dilated and the contractions were coming thick and fast. My TENS was working and I was dancing and swaying to the rhythm of the pains. Keeping still or quiet wasn't an option for me. In my head I was managing well but after another hour I remembered I could try the entonox. It was love at first breath, the mouthpiece and canister were subsequently my constant companions from there on in. I knew things were cracking on a pace, the pool was filled and there was the smell of my favourite candles in the air. I had the same smells that I'd had for Linus' birth but I had confidence that this story was going to end very differently.
At 2am I had some blood loss that was initially alarming, but after Beccy checked things out and found me to be 7cm with intact membranes I was convinced that I was absolutely going to rock this birth. I was loving labour and all the emotions it brought. I felt strong, cocooned by the darkness, enveloped by the warmth of the room, and utterly loved by Max and Beccy. We all laughed and I sang, as I got in to the warm and supportive pool and Max got comfy on the bed beside me.
By 2:15am I was pushing and Max was most definitely off the bed. Nothing could stop me now and I needed no direction from anyone. My body knew exactly what it had to do and, thankfully, how to do it.
Soon I became aware that there was someone else in the room. Karen had come in quietly so as not to disturb us, but it is her whispers that I remember better than any other words that were said that night. As I sucked hard on the entonox with my face touching the water, I heard her soft Scottish voice. "She's amazing" she said, then quietly commented to Beccy that Ed (the consultant) would be there in 2 minutes. As I birthed my baby I called back at Karen that he would miss it! I knelt up, put my hands down and brought my beautiful baby to the surface of the water.
Out she swam!
"It's Elsa" both Max and I exclaimed, as we welcomed our gorgeous girl to the world. We were all crying as I cradled her in my arms. Ed came into the room and I proudly held up my prize. I have never felt such power, pride, joy and exhilaration. I truly believed, at that moment, that I could do anything. I had after all done the double double, a boy and a girl, a caesarean and a waterbirth. The antenatal teacher's dream package!